RBS Seminar: Exploring Ephemera (10–12 November)

Date: 11 November 2019 – 12 November 2019
Time: 6:00–9:00 p.m. Sunday; 8:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m. Monday; 8:30 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Tuesday
Location: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library and the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press
Presented by: Catharine Dann Roeber, Jeanne Solensky, Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire, Emily Guthrie, Jesse R. Erickson, Rebecca Johnson Melvin, and Mark Samuels Lasner

Rare Book School is sponsoring a two-day seminar at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library and the University of Delaware Library on Monday and Tuesday 11–12 November 2019, preceded by a group dinner on Sunday, 10 November.

This seminar has been designed to be of interest to curators, collectors, and librarians of all kinds who care for, research, and teach with ephemera collections, but signup is open to anyone with an interest in the topics covered. The cost to attend the seminar is $500.

As space is limited, signup for the seminar will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. We encourage “early bird” registration before 7 October to improve your chances of getting a seat.

A block of rooms will be available at a discounted rate at the Courtyard Marriott Newark-University of Delaware; transportation will be provided to and from the hotel each day.

Seminar Description

Drawing on the remarkable holdings of two Delaware institutions—Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library and the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press—this two-day workshop offers an opportunity to explore the history, production methods, typography, circulation, use, and meaning of ephemera produced from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries in America and Britain. Hands-on study of the physical nature of ephemera will be the main emphasis of the seminar, but the value of the materials for scholarship, teaching, and exhibition purposes will also be considered.

Students with varying levels of experience and expertise are welcome. In their personal statements, students should provide a brief description of their interest in ephemera, to help inform the seminar examples and presentations.

Seminar Schedule

Sunday, 10 November
6:00 p.m. Meet at Courtyard Marriott-University of Delaware, travel to Caffé Gelato
6:30 p.m. Dinner at Caffé Gelato in Newark, DE

Monday, 11 November — Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
8:30 a.m. Meet at Courtyard Marriott, travel to Winterthur
9:30–10:45 a.m. “What is Ephemera? An Exploration through Ephemera at Winterthur” — Catharine Dann Roeber
10:45–11:15 a.m. Morning break with refreshments
11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m. “The Art of the Stone” — Jeanne Solensky
12:30–1:15 p.m. Lunch break (boxed lunches available)
1:15–2:45 p.m. “From Sheffield Silver to Sears, Roebuck & Co.: Trade Catalogs and Material Culture” — Emily Guthrie
2:45–3:15 p.m. Afternoon break with refreshments
3:15–4:45 p.m. “Color in Printed Ephemera” — Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire
4:45 p.m. Travel to Oak Knoll Books in New Castle, DE
5:15–6:30 p.m. Explore Oak Knoll Books
6:30 p.m. Group dinner at Jessop’s Tavern in New Castle
8:30 p.m. Return to Courtyard Marriott

Tuesday, 12 November — University of Delaware Library
8:30 a.m. Meet at Courtyard Marriott, travel to University of Delaware
9:00–10:30 a.m. “Ethnobibliographic Method for Ephemera Studies” – Jesse R. Erickson
10:30–11:00 a.m. Morning break with refreshments
11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. “The Scrapbook: Contextualizing Ephemera” — Rebecca Johnson Melvin
12:30–1:15 p.m. Lunch break (boxed lunches available)
1:15–2:45 p.m. “Late Victorians: Death and Celebrity” — Mark Samuels Lasner
2:45–3:15 p.m. Afternoon break with refreshments
3:15 p.m. Walk to Old College
3:30–4:30 p.m. “Beat Visions and Counterculture” Exhibition tour
4:30–4:45 p.m. Seminar evaluations
4:45–6:00 p.m. Drinks at Deer Park Tavern
6:00 p.m. Return to Courtyard Marriott

Session Descriptions

At Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (11 November)

“What is Ephemera?: An Exploration through Ephemera at Winterthur” — This session explores the multiple meanings of ephemera, using highlights from the variety of ephemeral forms found in Winterthur’s collections. From candy wrappers to broadsides, advertising sheets and bank notes, Winterthur’s museum and library collections contain a wealth of material relating to transitory paper objects that circulated in early America. We will examine the materials, discuss origins and uses, and explore questions about the definition of and role for ephemera in museum and library collections.

“The Art of the Stone” — This session will feature lithographic stones, keyline drawings, and proof books alongside stunning pieces of ephemera from the John and Carolyn Grossman Collection that explain this chromolithographic process that required much precision and teamwork by artists and printers. Participants will be taken on a virtual tour of an early-twentieth-century lithographic firm.

“From Sheffield Silver to Sears, Roebuck & Co.: Trade Catalogs and Material Culture” — In studying America’s artistic, cultural, and social history, trade catalogs are seen as essential primary sources. The Winterthur Library recognized the research value of this unique form of ephemera at the time of its inception in the early 1950s. To date, the trade catalog collection has grown to over 7,000 items, ranging in date from circa 1760 to 1999. We will examine a selection of items that not only elucidate the production, distribution, and use of trade catalogs but also have a proven ability to inspire, educate, and entertain.

“Color in Printed Ephemera” — Using museum and library collections, this session will focus on the physical examination of color in printed ephemera and the challenges the colors presents for material and historical inquiry.

At the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press (12 November)

“Ethnobibliographic Method for Ephemera Studies” — This session introduces strategies for the implementation of ethnobibliographic method in ephemera studies. The session will cover core concepts in ethnobibliography, which looks at relationships in bibliographic materiality and the social construction of racial and ethnic identity. Here, the method will be applied to printed ephemera and mixed-media texts in the form of trade cards, postcards, and scrapbooks. The session will survey trade cards, postcards, scrapbooks, and other ephemera addressing various connections between graphic design trends, production techniques, and racial representation. An overview of scrapbook genres and styles will accompany material, speculative, and narrative analysis, specifically looking at how these objects work together in the shaping of identities.

“The Scrapbook: Contextualizing Ephemera” — Perhaps the original mixed-media and interactive format, the scrapbook as placeholder for eclectic, esoteric, and ephemeral content is an overlooked source for rewarding avenues of archival research and material culture studies. Reading the scrapbook as a collection is an exercise in considering the identity and the intent of the creator, original sources for the selected ephemera, and meaning derived from personal compilations. We will survey popular scrapbook genres to understand why and how people have used ephemera to fill blank books, with interdisciplinary appreciation especially for printing, advertising, and gender studies.

“Late Victorians: Death and Celebrity” — To be famous—or infamous—in the nineteenth century was to have your death be seen as quite an occasion. Private and public ceremonies, memorials, obituaries, biographies, and sales of possessions brought forward a mass of printed items ranging from simple mourning stationery to elaborate funeral programs. This session will consider the design, circulation, and production of materials relating to, among others, Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Disraeli, Tennyson, William Morris, and W. E. Henley.

Seminar Instructors

At Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (11 November)

Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire, a member of Rare Book School’s Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography, is the Associate Curator of Fine Arts at Winterthur, and an affiliated Assistant Professor in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture (WPAMC) at the University of Delaware. She earned her Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University and is a specialist on nineteenth-century American art. Her current fields of interests include color and printmaking, the role of intellectual property law in American visual culture, and the travels of eighteenth-century painters to the Caribbean region.

Emily Guthrie is the Library Director and National Endowment for the Humanities Librarian for the Printed Book and Periodical Collection. She works closely with Winterthur’s graduate students and research fellows, teaches the WPAMC Book Connoisseurship Block, and regularly teaches Design Sources, rare book sessions for British Design History, and other library workshops featuring the rare book collection.

Catharine Dann Roeber is the Brock W. Jobe Associate Professor in Decorative Arts and Material Culture in the WPAMC. With a commitment to exploring stories of people, things, architecture, and landscapes, she draws on her education in anthropology, material culture, museum studies, and history (Ph.D., William and Mary) to inform her teaching, research, and museum work. Her research focuses broadly on American material culture in a global context with several projects centered on the colonial Mid-Atlantic. Catharine regularly uses ephemera in her teaching and scholarship.

Jeanne Solensky is the Andrew W. Mellon Librarian for the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera. Jeanne teaches sessions on primary sources and ephemera for the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture students and outside groups. In recent years she has focused on enhancing accessibility of the Downs Collection through digitization and online exhibitions. Jeanne has written articles for the Winterthur Magazine, Antiques and Fine Art, and Nineteenth Century.

At the University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press (12 November)

Jesse R. Erickson is the University of Delaware Library’s Coordinator of Special Collections and Digital Humanities. He is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and the current Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center. Before joining the University of Delaware, he worked as a bibliographic researcher and archival processor in the Manuscripts Division of the Charles E. Young Research Library and the Center for Oral History Research at the University of California, Los Angeles. He earned both his Ph.D. in Information Studies and Master of Library and Information Science from the UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. His research specializations include ethnobibliography, alternative printing and non-canonical textuality, African American print culture, and the transnational printing history of the works of Ouida (1839–1908).

Rebecca Johnson Melvin is Manuscripts Librarian and Curator of the Joseph R. Biden, Jr., senatorial papers at the University of Delaware. As an archivist and manuscripts librarian, she is a champion for the non-textual “other formats” found in special collections, promoting lessons of visual literacy and understanding material culture through archival research in scrapbooks. She contributed a chapter to The Scrapbook in American Life (2006) and has spoken about scrapbooks to professional and public audiences at the Society of American Archivists, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Cranbrook Academy of Art, and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

Mark Samuels Lasner is Senior Research Fellow, University of Delaware Library, Museums & Press, and a collector, bibliographer, and typographer. In 2016 he donated to the University of Delaware Library his collection of more than 9,500 items focusing on British literature and art of the period 1850 to 1900.

Signup Process

  • Fill out the signup form below. Please note: as of 17 September the seminar has reached enrollment capacity; you may still sign up to be added to the waitlist. If you have any trouble with the signup form, please email seminars@virginia.edu or call Laura Eidam at 434-243-3948.
  • You will first receive an email confirming your seminar registration. If you do not receive this email, please contact us, as it may mean that your registration did not submit correctly. We’ll send another email later containing a link through which to submit payment. Your payment will serve to reserve your seat in the seminar.
  • Final details, including information about accommodations and transportation, will arrive via email prior to the event.